Accessibility Matters

I’d been thinking about this a day or two ago. And then Jeremy reminds us again of why it matters. But the really daft thing is that often by making things more accessible, you have a tendency to make it better for everybody. It really forces you to think about what you’re doing (and consequently your users will be doing) rather than just pissing around in photoshop1 until it looks pretty.

But just to come out in a slightly more positive note, I highly recommend listening to a recent google developer podcast: The status of accessibility on the web. It’s an interview with T.V. Raman, the author of emacspeak amongst other things. There’s a long running joke that Emacs is an Operating System with an editor attached. Yet, Raman has made it into a complete environment that provides his every needs as a blind user2. Newer tools like Eclipse would do well to learn its lessons.

But you don’t have to go to those lengths if you don’t want to. Why not try something simple, like viewing your site in lynx once in a while? Or even simpler, try viewing your site in the nude.

Accessibility is an issue that affects all of us, whether you realise it or not. How about “print page” on most of the commercial news sites? Do you have a tendency to click on the print page, because there are fewer adverts and wider columns? Me too. That’s an accessibility issue—the main page is inaccessible, so a workaround has to be provided (and it’s a totally sucky user experience to boot).

So, don’t leave accessibility to the realms of “not my problem”. It’s a fundamental part of web design.

1 You’re not a web designer if you do all your work in photoshop. It’s a great tool for photo manipulation, but it leads to all sorts of ass-hattery when used for the web. This is my consistent experience.

2 And also being a great demonstration of what CSS was truly meant to achieve.